0

Supermarkets vs. supercenters: Where can shoppers save more?

In my Super-Couponing classes, I'm often asked whether it's easier just to shop at a supercenter, large grocery-discount store combinations that offer "every-day low prices," or shop at a traditional, "more expensive" supermarket using coupons to achieve greater savings. If you've used coupons for any length of time, you know that it's possible to achieve much better savings at the supermarket by following the sales and matching them with coupons.

The reason? Believe it or not, the "every-day low price" strategy is the culprit. Supercenters maintain low prices, avoiding the traditional cycle of sales and price cuts common at supermarket chains. At a supercenter, a $2.50 box of cereal will sell for $2.50 this week, next week and three weeks from now. Meanwhile, over at the supermarket, the price of the same brand of cereal is fluctuating from high to low. It may be $2.99 one week, $2.49 the next and $1.99 the next.

Many shoppers find comfort and a sense of confidence in knowing what prices will be, week after week, at a supercenter. But the truth is, price fluctuations make supermarkets the best places to shop for someone who's trying to save even more money.

As we've learned, making the most of the supermarket's price cycle can be advantageous to shoppers. When the price of a certain cereal brand takes a dip to $1.99, it's less expensive than the supercenter's price. That's when we move in and use our coupons to bring the price down even more. Sure, we could use the same coupon at the every-day low-price store. But when the sale price of the item at the supermarket drops below the every-day low price of the supercenter, we save even more buying the item at the supermarket.

Recently, a new supercenter opened in my town. During its grand opening, the store was abuzz with people lining up, excitedly waiting to take advantage of the low prices. I was curious to compare the new supercenter's prices with those at other supermarkets in our area. I had just been to the supermarket the previous day and I had my receipt showing the sale prices (before my coupon savings) on 21 different items.

As I strolled the aisles of the new store, I was shocked to see the difference in prices on the same items I'd just purchased at the supermarket.

What shocked me was how high they were.

Of the 21 items on my receipt, 14 of the products' "every-day" prices were significantly higher at the supercenter than the sale prices I'd paid one day earlier at the supermarket -- in some cases, several dollars more on a single item. Six of the products I purchased were more expensive at the supermarket, but we're talking pennies more, not dollars -- in many cases, the difference between $1.97 and $1.99. And while it's true that the regular prices of the supermarket sale items are often higher, smart shoppers aren't paying those regular prices. We watch for sales and price drops, then move in and buy what we need when the price hits that low.

Again, while I certainly could have used my coupons at the supercenter to buy the same products, I brought the supermarket's lower prices down even more by using my coupons there.

Low prices aren't the only aspect of saving big, however. Supermarkets often offer additional promotions that can cut your grocery bill significantly. Next week, I'll share the rest of this story and you'll see how I took those groceries home from the supermarket for 69 percent less than I would have paid using the same coupons on the same items at the supercenter.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.